Question: What is pulmonary edema, and what is pneumonia?
Doctor: They are quite similar, but the medical terminology differs. Pulmonary edema is when you find water in the lungs, while the infection in the lung is called pneumonia. Anyway, pneumonia can progress to pulmonary edema.
Lung conditions involving water can be either pulmonary edema (water in the lungs) or pleural effusion (water in the membrane lining of the lungs). It depends on where the water is found.
Question: What are the causes of pulmonary edema?
Doctor: The lungs and heart work together in a very close partnership. Pulmonary edema can be caused by heart muscle problems or other non-heart related causes. The heart problems that can cause pulmonary edema include a weakened cardiac muscle. The heart is composed of blood vessels that feed the heart itself, the cardiac muscles and the heart valves. The blood vessels that supply the heart might become constricted, which weakens the cardiac muscle, but the heart might also become weak from an unknown cause, from toxins, such as alcohol or cocaine, or from viral infection. The heart might also weaken because of leaking valves, that become constricted, causing high blood pressure and possibly pulmonary edema.
Question : What are the symptoms?
Doctor : Most patients with these conditions already have some other underlying condition, which can include, a constricted coronary artery, high blood pressure or a thyroid disorder, and these can be the cause of pulmonary edema. The patient will feel tired, find it difficult to breathe, and can feel even more tired if they lay down. Some patients will have symptoms similar to drowning because the lungs aren’t able to exchange gases. If the symptoms are severe, like the sufferer coughing up pink bubbles, then this means that their condition is critical.
Question : How can you diagnose it?
Doctor : First of all, we need to decide whether it is caused by heart disease, or not. From a patient’s medical history, the doctor will check to see if they get tired easily or can’t lay down. The doctor will also perform a physical examination, which includes performing a lung and heart check, to diagnose the disease. Then the doctor will use the blood test results, electrocardiogram, lung x-ray, and heart ultrasound to help confirm the diagnosis.
Question : What are the side effects of pneumonia?
Doctor : If there is water leakage into the small air sacs of the lungs, then the patient will be unable to lay down. If left untreated for too long, the lungs will continue to get more and more flooded. The patient will feel like they are drowning and then the exchange of gases will slow down; the brain will be starved of oxygen; the heart will not be able to perform correctly, and this can even lead to death.
Question : How do you take care of yourself and prevent this disease from occurring?
Doctor : You need to take care of yourself by getting regular health checkups, having blood tests and avoiding risk factors. If you have high blood pressure, then it must be controlled. Give up alcohol and toxins that affect the heart, exercise, eat all five good food types, get enough rest and sleep, and avoid getting over-stressed.
The Second Class Honours M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Srinakharinwirot University, 1993.